Managing Food In Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 is a 3.14-acre research facility located in Oracle, Arizona, sealed from the earth below by a 500-ton welded stainless steel liner. Two missions, between 1991 and 1994, sealed the crew inside the glass enclosure to measure survivability. During the 1994 mission, seven people entered the Biosphere with the goal of planting, harvesting, and cooking their own food. Coffee was a once-a-week luxury, and meat was only served on Sundays. Even Thanksgiving was missing the turkey. However, even in the hardest of times, there were beets, bananas and sweet potatoes galore. Home-brewed banana wine took the place of traditional drinks, and because hot peppers grew in abundance, the crew often held “chili duels” to see who could produce the hottest dish. Homemade pizza was one of the favorites, but it was hardly fast food — it took a minimum of four months to grow and process the ingredients. At times, the crew ate very little, and by the time they emerged after 10 months, each crew member had lost 25 pounds. However, with so little meat available, the average fat intake was less than 10% of the total calories a day, one-third to one-fourth what the typical American consumes. As a result, the crew said they felt healthier, and their numbers showed it. After two years on their high-fiber, low-fat, sugar-free diet, their cholesterol levels had dropped from an average of 195 (within the normal range) to an astonishing 125. Unfortunately, during the middle of the second experiment, which was to last two years, the managing company, Space Biosphere Ventures, was dissolved and the experiment ended.